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Photo Opener: Nicole Burke, Sommelier at Garibaldi’s in San Francisco

 

Growing up in Buffalo, New York placed Nicole Burke in a close geographical proximity to Niagara wine country. “I remember family outings with such positive memories. My sister and I would get on a horse drawn farm cart and ride through the vineyards,” said the lovely and charming Burke, now Sommelier and Beverage Director for John Hurley’s team at Garibaldi’s – with locations in San Francisco’s Presidio and the East Bay’s Rockridge.

A degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of San Diego may have steered Burke in another direction if the appeal of restaurants and wine didn’t lure her so intensely. Working for prominent chefs such as George Morrone, Scott Giambastiani and Tyler Florence and recognized by the James Beard Foundation, she is a recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. Burke manifests a creative global outreach in her wine selections at Garibaldi’s while also consulting for several cutting edge wine lists around the Bay area.

 

Glamour at Garibaldi’s

Working side by side with Garibaldi’s Executive Chef John Beardsley, Nicole Burke is responsible for elevating the wine and cocktail list of the 13-year old restaurant to a higher level. Inspired by its Mediterranean cuisine, her wine list is alluring as she spotlights her wine pages with seductive phrases and descriptives, referring to Riesling as possessing “piercing acidity braced by gossamer stone fruit” or Syrah as “muscular, sensual black velvet.”

When it comes to mixed drinks, Burke is equipped with a resumé of delights that she interplays with her favorite spirits. She was recently asked to be a spokesperson for Roth, the new California-grape based ultra-premium vodka. “I was honored to be a part of Roth’s launch,” she noted. “I love its delicate flavor: they got it 100 percent right. It’s perfect for mixing with fruit and herbal aromatics.”

The sultry sommelier reminds us of a 1930s glamour girl: dark hair, piercing eyes and luminous skin. We asked what motivates her and she simply answered, “Balance.” The Renaissance woman plays violin, writes short stories and works hard.

But, like any great wine or the layers of flavor within a cocktail, it’s the balance one seeks that leads to perfection.

Photo 1:  Nicole Burke’s homage to Roth vodka: muddled cucumber in the vodka, served straight up with a sea salt and cumin rim.

Photo 2: World class bourbon such as Maker’s Mark sets a perfect foundation for the “Bloody Old Fashioned,” combining a splash of blood orange vodka, muddled orange and brandied cherries, on the rocks with a splash of soda.